CSOSA Leads Trip to Two Prisons in Outreach Effort For Men About to Be Released

Other Agencies and Providers Joined Trip and Related Event

More than 100 men who soon will be released from prison met one-on-one this month with staff from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) and other community partners during visits that took place at two correctional facilities.

Associate Director Cedric Hendricks led a contingent from CSOSA on a two-day trip to visit men who soon will be returning home after serving sentences in federal prison facilities in Virginia and North Carolina. The trip was part of a variety of outreach efforts that take place throughout the year that make connections with men and women about to be released.

In addition to Associate Director Hendricks, 19 other CSOSA staff members made the visits on Dec. 3rd and Dec. 4th to FCI Petersburg, in Hopewell, VA, and the Rivers Correctional Facility in Winton, NC. They were joined by representatives of the District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health, the District of Columbia Board of Elections, the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles, the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, and Voices for a Second Chance, a non-profit that works with justice-involved individuals.

As Associate Director Hendricks explained it to the group at Petersburg on Dec. 3rd, “This is all about your future and you being successful. It’s all about getting the help you need to be successful.”

CSOSA has been making annual visits to Petersburg and Rivers for years because the populations at those facilities include large numbers of District of Columbia inmates. The visits are in addition to trips that staff members regularly make to facilities housing men and women nearing release. The in-person visits are part of efforts that also include quarterly information-sharing videoconferences with inmates at numerous facilities throughout the country.

Men at both prisons were eager to meet with the visitors, seeking information in the one-on-one discussions about housing, jobs, and other services and making connections that they hope to continue once they are back in the community. Many were preparing to move to the Hope Village halfway house, and others were nearing release directly back into the District of Columbia, including one man who had just two days remaining.

The men were anxious to return but also worried about their futures and repairing relationships with their families and the community at large.

The group from CSOSA – including Community Supervision Officers, case managers, and others – explained the mechanics of supervision and the ways CSOSA can help. Nearly every participant at Petersburg and Rivers personally met with Vocational Development Coordinator Tony Lewis, a reflection of the importance of employment in re-entry.

While members of the CSOSA team were visiting River’s Correctional Institution, an interactive videoconference was conducted from the agency’s headquarters in the District of Columbia. Employment and training partners who are dedicated to contributing to the success of returning residents, as well as reducing recidivism, participated in a productive exchange with the individuals who will soon be coming home to our community.

A particular highlight was the participation of a former Rivers resident, who spoke of the success he has experienced, as he is now employed in the construction trade by Miller and Long after going through training with the Building Futures Program of the Community Services Agency of the Metropolitan Washington Council (MWC), AFL-CIO. Other presenters included representatives of the Congress Heights Service Center, the Office of Apprenticeship Information and Training of the D.C. Department of Employment Services and the United Planning Organization (UPO).

The trip was organized by Associate Director Hendricks and Supervisory Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Specialist Trina Stewart. The federal Bureau of Prisons and the GEO Group Inc., which runs the Rivers facility, helped facilitate the visits.

CSOSA expressed thanks to Ms. Anne Dukes, Reentry Affairs Coordinator at FCI Petersburg, and Ms. Sydell Green, Release Preparation Program Coordinator at Rivers, for welcoming the team. The participants who made the trip have already had follow-up discussions about ways to collaborate so that the men coming home transition safely back to the community.

Victim Services Program Overview

In 2001, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia (CSOSA) launched the Victim Services Program (VSP) to serve residents of the District of Columbia who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual offenses, traffic or alcohol-related crimes, or property crimes. VSP is committed to responding to victims of crime with compassion, understanding, and respect.

VSP works with Community Supervision Officers (CSOs) to decrease the incidence of recidivism and re-victimization. VSP also partners with victim service agencies to identify crime victims, provide education on victim rights, and deliver orientation and technical assistance to victims and the community. Additionally, VSP connects victims with resources to address the effect of victimization.

 

Entrepreneurship Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals

Mounting research indicates that there are significant benefits for our communities in helping men and women that have been involved in the criminal justice system find employment. Unfortunately, some employers remain reticent to hiring someone who is or has been involved in the justice system, as evidenced by the need for laws such as Ban the Box, which, among other things, makes it illegal for an employer to inquire about criminal history prior to making a conditional offer of employment.

In the District’s highly competitive and saturated job market, gainful employment remains an intractable challenge. For some, it is further compounded by the additional challenges posed by their history of involvement with the justice system. In order to realize gains in public safety, it is imperative to remove barriers that can empower these individuals to take control of their destinies. One such mechanism for empowerment in the employment sector is entrepreneurship which provides a promising approach to address unemployment for men and women with criminal histories.

Check our latest episode of DC Public Safety to learn more about this important topic.